Below is some helpful information and instructions for taking care of boot and shoe leather. These tidbits come from The Art of Boot and Shoemaking ©1885
USEFUL RECEIPTS FOR SHOEMAKERS
Varnish for Shoes.—Put half a pound of gum shellac broken up into small pieces in a quart bottle or jug, cover it with alcohol, cork it tight, and put it on a shelf in a warm place; shake it well several times a day, then add a piece of camphor as large as a hen's egg; shake it again and add one ounce of lamp-black. If the alcohol is good it will be all dissolved in three days; then shake and use. If it gets too thick, add alcohol; pour out two or three tea-spoonfuls in a saucer, and apply it with a small paintbrush. If the materials are all good, it will dry in about five minutes, and will be removed only by wearing it off, giving a gloss almost equal to patent leather. The advantage of this preparation over others is, it does not strike into the leather and make it hard, but remains on the surface, and yet excludes the water almost perfectly. This same preparation is admirable for harness, and does not soil when touched as lamp-black preparations do.
Jet for Boots or Harness.—Three sticks of the best black sealing-wax, dissolved in half a pint of spirits of wine, to be kept in a glass bottle, and well shaken previous to use. Apply it with a soft sponge.
Castor-oil as a Dressing for Leather.—Castor-oil, besides being an excellent dressing for leather, renders it vermin proof. It should be mixed, say half and half, with tallow and other oil. Neither rats, roaches, nor other vermin will attack leather so prepared.
Composition for Leather.—Take one hundred parts of finely pulverised lamp-black, and thirty parts of East India copal, previously dissolved in rectified turpentine. Mix the two together until the whole forms a homogeneous paste. To this is to be added fifteen parts of wax and one part of india-rubber, which has been first dissolved in some ethereal oil. When the whole is properly mixed, a current of oxygen is passed for half an hour through the mass, and after cooling, the whole is to be thoroughly worked up. It may then be packed in tin boxes, and kept ready for use.
Waterproofing.—Half a pound of shoemaker's dubbin, half a pint of linseed oil, and half a pint of solution of india-rubber. Dissolve with a gentle heat and apply. Note these ingredients are inflammable, and great caution must be used in making the preparation.
To Bender Cloth Waterproof.—The following is said to be the method used in China. To one ounce of white wax melted, add one quart of spirits of turpentine, and when thoroughly mixed and cold, dip the cloth into the liquid, and hang it up to drain and dry. Muslins, as well as strong cloths, are by this means rendered impenetrable to rain, without losing their colour or beauty.
To preserve Boots from being penetrated by Wet and Snow Damp.—Boots and shoes may be preserved from wet by rubbing them over with linseed oil, which has stood some months in a leaden vessel till thick. As a securityagainst snow water, melt equal quantities of beeswax and mutton suet in a pipkin over a slow fire. Lay the mixture, while hot, on the boots and shoes, and rub dry with a woollen cloth.
Waterproofing Compositions for Leather.—Melt over a slow fire one quart of boiled linseed oil, a pound of mutton suet, three quarters of a pound of yellow beeswax, and half a pound of common resin. With this mixture rub over the boots or shoes, soles, legs, and upper leathers, when a little warmed, till the whole are completely saturated. Another way is, to melt one quart of drying oil, a quarter of a pound of drying beeswax, the same quantity of spirits of turpentine, and an ounce of Burgundy pitch. Hub this composition, near a fire, all over the leather, till it is thoroughly saturated.
Chinese Waterproofing Composition for Leather.— Three parts of blood deprived of its fibrine, four of lime, and a little alum.
Polishing up Old and Soiled Boots.—If required to tell in the fewest words how to dispose of old goods, we should say, make them as much like new as possible. We would then go further, and advise never to let them get old. This may be thought rather difficult, but still it can be put in practice so far as to make it a piece of first-rate counsel. Some may think it a good plan to put the lowest possible price on them, and keep them in sight as a temptation to buyers, without taking any other trouble. But if this is a very easy effort, we think ours is far more profitable to the seller, and therefore worthy of being explained somewhat minutely. Among the things that ought to be in every shoe shop, besides the necessary tools, are blacking, gum tragacanth, gum arabic, varnish, neatsfoot oil, and perhaps some prepared dressing for uppers. With these, or such of them as may be necessary, on old upper, however rusty looking, if properly treated, can be made to shine. Ladies' shoes, if of black morocco ar kid, and have become dry, stiff, and dull, try a little oil on them—not a great deal—which will make them more soft and flexible, and will not injure the lustre materially. Then try a delicate coating of prepared varnish, designed for the purpose, over the oil. When this has dried the shoes will doubtless be improved. If a calf kid begins to look reddish and rusty, give it a slight application of oil, which will probably restore the colour; but, if not, put on blacking. When the blacking is dry, brush it off, and go over it again very lightly with the oil, when it will be as good as new. Patent leather will not only be made softer, but the lustre will also be improved, by oiling. For pebbled calf, or any kind of grain leather that has become brown, the treatment should be the same; when only a little red, an application of oil, or even tallow, will often restore the colour. When it is very brown, black it thoroughly, and oil it afterwards, giving it a nice dressing of dissolved gum tragacanth to finish. This is the grand recipe for improving uppers; the labour of applying it is very little, and the effect very decided and gratifying. For men's boots that have been much handled, often tried on, or have become rough, or dry, stiff and lifeless, from lying in shop a long time, or all these things together, another treeing is the best thing in the world, and precisely what they need. It should be done thoroughly. After putting them on the trees, a supply of oil must not be forgotten. Then a dressing of gum tragacanth, and, when it is partially dry, a rubbing with a long-stick to give a polish, after which a second and slight application of gum, to be rubbed off with the bare hand before fully dry. It is almost surprising how much a boot is renewed by this treatment, and, though it may require half an hour's time to each pair from some man who understands it, the cost is well expended and many times returned. A good supply of trees, of different sizes, should be always at hand, and not be allowed to get dusty for want of use. But when, for any reason, it is inexpedient or difficult to apply a thorough process with old boots, they can still be oiled and gummed without using the trees, and though with less good effect, yet still enough to prove very useful.
If any mould has shown, or the grease used in stuffing has drawn out of the leather, a little rubbing off with benzine would be necessary at first to clean them. After this an application of cod oil and tallow might be useful to make the leather soft and pliable; to be preceded, if the colour is a little off, by an application of a prepared black of some kind, of which there are several in the market. The soles would probably be improved by cleaning and a vigorous use of the rub-stick; they might also be rebuffed, if the stock would stand it, and a slight application of size would help to give them a polish. To do all this well requires some skill, and the expenditure of considerable labour.
To Restore the Blackness of Old Leather.—For every two yolks of new-laid eggs, retain the white of one; let these be well beaten, and then shaken in a glass vessel till as thick as oil. Dissolve in about a table-spoonful of Holland gin, a piece of lump sugar, thicken it with ivory black, and mix the eggs for use. Lay this on in the same manner as blacking for shoes, and after polishing with a soft brush, let it remain to harden and dry. This process answers well for ladies' and gentlemen's leather shoes, but should have the following addition to protect the stockings from being soiled: Shake the white or glaire of eggs in a phial till it is like oil, and lay some of it on twice with a small brush over the inner edges of the shoes.
To Clean Boot Tops.—Dissolve an ounce of oxalic acid into a pint of soft water, and keep it in a bottle well corked; dip a sponge in this to clean the tops with, and if any obstinate stains remain rub them with some bath brick dust, and sponge them with clean water. If your tops are brown, take a pint of skimmed milk, half an ounce of spirits of salts, as much of spirits of lavender, one ounce of gum arabic, and the juice of two lemons. Put the mixture into a bottle closely corked; rub the tops with a sponge, and when dry, polish them with a brush and flannel.
To Polish Enamelled Leather.—Two pints of the best cream, one pint of linseed oil; make them each lukewarm, and then mix them well together. Having previously cleaned the shoe, &c, from dirt, rub it over with a sponge dipped in the mixture; then rub it with a soft dry cloth until a brilliant polish is produced.
Softening Boot Uppers.—Wash them quite clean from dirt and old blacking, using lukewarm water in the operation. As soon as clean and the water has soaked in, give them a good coating of currier's dubbin, and hang them up to dry; the dubbin will amalgamate with the leather, causing it to remain soft and resist moisture. No greater error could possibly be committed than to hold boots to the fire after the application of, or when applying oil or grease. All artificial heat is injurious. Moreover, it forces the fatty substance through and produces hardness, instead of allowing it to remain and amalgamate with the leather. Note this opinion about heat, and act as experience dictates. "We think, if the heat be not too great, no harm will result.
Cleaning Buckskin Gloves and White Belts.—Should these be stained, a solution of oxalic acid must be applied; should they be greasy, they must be rubbed with benzine very freely. After these processes are complete some fine pipeclay is to be softened in warm water to the consistency of cream; if a good quantity of starch be added to this it will prevent this white clay from rubbing off, but the whiteness will not then be so bright. If a small quantity be used the belts will look very bright. This mixture is to be applied with some folds of flannel as evenly as possible, and put to dry in the sun or in a warm room. When dry, the gloves can be put on and clapped together; this will throw off a good deal of superfluous pipeclay. The belts are to be treated in a similar way.
To take Stains out of Black Cloth, &c Boil a quantity
of fig-leaves in two quarts of water, till reduced to a pint. Squeeze the leaves, and bottle the liquor for use. The articles, whether cloth, silk, or crape, need only be rubbed over with a sponge dipped in the liquor.
Liquid for Cleaning Cloth.—Dissolve in a pint of spring water one ounce of pearlash, and add thereto a lemon cut in slices. Let the mixture stand two days, and then strain the clear liquor into bottles. A little of this dropped on spots of grease will soon remove them, but the cloth must be washed immediately after with cold water.— Or, put a quart of soft water, with about four ounces of burnt lees of wine, two scruples of camphor, and an ox's gall, into a pipkin, and let it simmer till reduced to one half, then strain, and use it while lukewarm. Wet the cloth on both sides where the spots are, and then wash them with cold water.
How to Remove Ink Stains.—Owing to the black colour of writing ink depending upon the iron it contains, the usual method is to supply some diluted acid in which the iron is soluble, and this, dissolving the iron, takes away the colour of the stain. Almost any acid will answer for this purpose, but it is, of course, necessary to employ those only that are not likely to injure the articles to which they are applied. A solution of oxalic acid may be used for this purpose, and answers very well. It has, however, the great disadvantage of being very poisonous, which necessitates great caution in its use. Citric acid and tartaric acid, which are quite harmless, are therefore to be preferred, especially as they may be used on the most delicate fabrics without any danger of injuring them. They may also be employed to remove marks of ink from books, as they do not injure printing ink, into the composition of which iron does not enter. Lemon juice, which contains citric acid, may also be used for the same purpose, but it does not succeed so well as the pure acid.
Kid or Memel Colour Renovator. — Take a few cuttings of loose kid, pour over sufficient water to just cover them, and simmer them for an hour. When cool they will be of the proper consistency. Apply with the fingers or a piece of rag or cloth.
French Polish for Boots Mix together two pints of
best vinegar, one pint of soft water, and stir into it a quarter pound of glue broken up, half a pound of logwood chips, a quarter of an ounce of best soft soap, and a quarter of an ounce of isinglass. Put the mixture over the fire and let it boil for ten minutes or more, then strain the liquid and bottle and cork it. When cold it is fit for use. It should be applied with a clean sponge. Fluid for Renovating the Surface of Japanned Leather.
—This liquid, for which Mr. "William Hoey obtained provisional protection in 1863, was described as being applicable for boots, shoes, and harness. It was composed , of about 2 ounces of paraffin or rock oil, or a mixture of both in any proportion, \ drachm of oil of lavender, \ drachm of citrionel essence, and 5 an ounce of spirit of ammonia; sometimes ivory or lamp-black was added to colour the mixture. When the ingredients were thoroughly mixed together, the fluid was applied lightly on the surface of the leather or cloth.
To Separate Patent Leather Patent leather is an
article with which there is always more or less liability to trouble in handling and working. It is sensitive to very warm weather, and great care is needed during the cold season.
If it should stick, and cold be the cause of the sticking, lay out the skin on a wide board, and with a hot flat-iron give it a rather slow but thorough ironing around the edges, where most of the trouble exists. A couple of thicknesses of cotton cloth are necessary to keep the iron from touching the leather. When both parts are well warmed through there will probably be no difficulty about their separation.
When the difficulty is owing to hot weather, the skins should be put away in the cellar, or the coolest place within reach and left till cooled through, when unless the stick is a very strong one, they will offer little resistance to being pulled apart.
If the stick be a slight one, open it gently and breathe on it as you pull.
To Preserve Leather from Mould.—Pyroligneous acid may be used with success in preserving leather from the attacks of mould, and is serviceable in recovering it after it has received that species of damage, by passing it over the surface of the hide or skin, first taking due care to remove the mouldy spots by the application of a dry cloth.